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2014 Pac-12 Predictions

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SEC · Pac-12 · Big 12 · ACC · Big Ten
Editor's Note: Don't miss out on college football winners this season from Brian Edwards on VegasInsider.com. Click to win!

Skinny

Oregon is the -130 favorite to win the Pac-12 at Sportsbook.ag. The Ducks, who are one of just three teams (South Carolina and Alabama being the others) to finish in the Top-10 of the national rankings three years in a row, didn't miss a beat without Chip Kelly in Mark Helfrich's first season as head coach.

For the fourth year in a row, Oregon went into November right in the thick of the national-title hunt. However, a second straight one-possession loss to Stanford got the Cardinal to the Pac-12 Championship Game ahead of the Ducks.

Oregon returns eight starters on offense and five on defense. Junior quarterback Marcus Mariota (6/1) has the second-shortest odds to win the Heisman Trophy behind only last year's winner, FSU's Jameis Winston (4/1). Mariota was nothing short of sensational in 2013, throwing for 3,665 yards with a 31/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also ran for 860 yards and nine TDs.

Mariota no longer has leading receiver Josh Huff or the versatile De'Anthony Thomas, but there are still plenty of weapons in Eugene. Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner are explosive RBs who combined to rush for 1,749 and 23 TDs last year. Bralon Adddison returns after catching 61 balls for 890 yards and seven scores.

Oregon will get a huge challenge in a Week 2 non-conference showdown against Michigan St., which beat Stanford in last year's Rose Bowl. Sportsbook.ag has the Ducks installed as 14-point favorites in its Games of the Year section.

In other Games of the Year, Oregon is favored by 22.5 vs. Arizona, three at UCLA, 17 vs. Washington, 26.5 at California, 11.5 vs. Stanford and 15 at Oregon St. The Ducks, who have the third-shortest odds (+750, risk $100 to win $750) to win the national title, have a season win total of 10.5 that's shaded heavily to the 'over' (-200, 'under' yields +160 on the comeback).

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Stanford is seeking its third consecutive conference title, but the odds aren't in its favor. The Cardinal has 12/1 odds, while UCLA and USC are at +275 and +475, respectively. David Shaw's program has won at least 11 games in four straight seasons, going 34-7 straight up and 24-15-2 against the spread in his three years since taking over for Jim Harbaugh.

Stanford returns five starters on offense and seven on defense. RB Tyler Gaffney is gone after rushing for 1,709 yards and 21 TDs in 2013, but there are high hopes for third-year sophomore Barry Sanders Jr. and junior Kelsey Young.

Junior QB Kevin Hogan has 19 career starts under his belt and has all of his top wideouts returning. Hogan completed 61 percent of his throws last season for 2,630 yards with a 20/10 TD-INT ratio. His favorite target is All-American candidate Ty Montgomery, who had 61 receptions for 958 yards and 10 TDs. Montgomery also had a pair of rushing scores and two TDs on special teams.

Like Auburn, which I noted in my SEC preview, Stanford has five daunting road assignments. The Cardinal face Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona St., Oregon and UCLA. The toughest home game will be against USC in Week 2.

If there's a team with the potential to overtake the Ducks and Cardinal in this division, it is Washington. The Huskies, who have 15/1 odds to win the Pac-12, have a season win total of nine ('under' -130, even money for the 'over').

I've considered Chris Petersen one of the nation's top-five coaches for several years, and now get to see what he can do at a school in a power conference. Petersen, who had an incredible 82-12 record during his eight-year tenure at Boise St., inherits a better-than-decent situation after new USC coach Steve Sarkisian did an excellent job of rebuilding the program after Ty Willingham's disastrous stretch at UW. Sarkisian took the Huskies to four consecutive bowl games after arriving in Seattle on the heels of a 0-12 campaign in 2008.

UW has to replace its two best players in QB Keith Price (three-year starter, second-leading passer in school history) and Bishop Sankey, who ran for 1,870 yards and 20 TDs last season. Cyler Miles was expected to be the starting QB, but he was suspended for spring practice and won't make the trip to Hawaii in Week 1. Miles was reportedly involved a post-Super Bowl assault.

Miles played in eight games, making one start, in 2013. He looked very sharp in relief of an injured Price during the third quarter of a loss at UCLA. Miles threw a pair of TDs and had UCLA backers like me worried about a backdoor cover until the Bruins pulled away in the final stanza. He rushed for 200 yards, averaging 8.7 yards per carry. Miles threw 61 passes and completed 37 for 418 yards, with a 4/2 TD-INT ratio.

Washington will most likely take a 4-0 record into a Sept. 27 home game against Stanford. In addition to Stanford, the Huskies get UCLA, Oregon St. and Arizona St. at home. They have to go on the road to face Oregon, Arizona and Washington St.

Oregon St. went 7-6 both SU and ATS last year. The Beavers have 65/1 odds to win the conference and their win total is 7.5 ('over' is even money, 'under' is -130). They return seven starters on both offense and defense.

Mike Riley's team has QB Sean Mannion back after an outstanding 2013 campaign. Mannion connected on 66.3 percent of his throws for 4,662 yards, with a 37/15 TD-INT ratio. However, the signal caller struggled mightily during a five-game losing streak to close the regular season. Manning started the year with a 29/3 TD-INT ratio, but those stats dropped to 8/12 in the last six contests. OSU did salvage the year by blasting Boise St. 38-24 at the Hawaii Bowl.

Mannion won't have All-American and first-round pick (by the Saints) Brandin Cooks anymore, but OSU has nearly all of its other WRs back in the fold. The defense returns its top six tacklers.

OSU gets Utah, Arizona St. and Oregon at home, but it will face tough road dates at USC, at Stanford and at Washington.

In his second season at the helm, Mike Leach took Washington St. to its first postseason game in a decade. Unfortunately the Cougars came up on the wrong side of a 48-45 decision to Colorado St. at the New Mexico Bowl. They finished 6-7 SU but hooked up their backers at a 9-4 ATS clip, including a 5-0 spread mark in road underdog situations.

Washington St. has a season win total of 5.5 ('over' -170, 'under' +130) and is a 22,500/1 longshot to win the Pac-12. The Cougars return eight starter on offense and six on defense.

QB Connor Halliday is back for his senior season and he has one of the nation's premier groups of WRs. Halliday threw for 4,597 yards in '13 with a 34/22 TD-INT ratio.

California endured a nightmare 2013 in Sonny Dykes's first season on campus. The Bears were an atrocious 1-11 SU and 2-10 ATS, capturing their only win over Portland St. by a 37-30 count as 27.5-point favorites.

Cal was decimated by lop-sided defeats and 51 games were lost by starters to injuries. ThCae only bright spot from the year is that a bunch of young players got playing time. One of those was rising true sophomore QB Jared Goff, who threw for 3,508 yards with an 18/10 TD-INT ratio.

Goff is one of nine offensive starters returning. He has his top two WRs and leading rusher back as well. The defense return six starters, but five of them were their leading tacklers.

Cal has a pair of tough non-conference games, including a home date vs. BYU and road trip to Northwestern in Week 1. The Bears will face the Wildcats while their star RB Venric Mark is suspended.

In the Pac-12 South, UCLA is the team to beat. Jim Mora Jr.'s squad has won 19 games in his first two seasons, including a 10-3 SU record and a 9-4 ATS mark in 2013. The Bruins return nine starters on offense and eight on defense. They have a win total of 9.5 ('over' -130, 'under' even money).

Brett Hundley is a legit Heisman Trophy candidate in what will undoubtedly be his last year in college despite his status as a junior. Hundley, who has already burned his redshirt, could've gone pro already but Mora convinced him to stick around for one more season. Hundley had a 29/11 TD-INT ratio in 2012 and those numbers were 24/9 last year. He is extremely athletic and rushed for a team-high 748 yards and 11 TDs in '13.

RB Jordon James was off to a fast start before an ankle injury in early October basically ruined the rest of his season. He and Paul Perkins will split most of the rushing load, although we could certainly see more of LB Myles Jack on offense. With the RB group depleted by injuries last year, Mora started playing Jack both ways and he responded with authority. Jack rushed for 267 yards and seven TDs on only 38 totes, averaging 7.0 YPC.

Jack is an All-American candidate on defense, as is fellow LB Eric Kendricks, who had a team-high 106 stops last season. As a true freshman in '13, Jack had 75 tackles (six for loss), one sack, a pair of interceptions and 11 passes broken up.

UCLA opens the season at Virginia and will take on Texas in Arlington (where the Cowboys play) on Sept. 13. The Bruins get Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona at home. Their hardest road assignments come at Arizona St. and at Washington.

USC finished last season strong under interim head coach Ed Oregeron, who replaced Lane Kiffin following his dismissal in the wake of a 62-41 loss at Arizona St. The Trojans won six of their last seven games to finish 10-4, including a 45-20 win over Fresno St. at the Las Vegas Bowl.

Seven starters return for USC on each side of the ball. Sarkisian inherits junior QB Cody Kessler, who completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,968 yards, with a 20/7 TD-INT ratio. Kessler won't have the services of WR Marquise Lee any longer, but he has one of the country's top wideouts in Nelson Agholor, who snared 56 balls for 918 yards and six scores last season.

USC gave up only 21.2 PPG in '13 and the defense has its top three tacklers back. This unit has two All-American candidates in DT Leonard Williams (6 sacks LY) and safety Su'a Cravens, who had four interceptions while garnering first-team Freshman All-American honors. LB Hayes Pullard was a first-team All Pac-12 selection last year and senior Josh Shaw is one of the league's best cover corners.

Arizona and Arizona St. will probably be the next-best team in the South, but I believe both teams are clearly a notch below the Bruins and Trojans. The Wildcats lost big-time talent with the departures of RB Ka'Deem Carey and QB B.J. Denker. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have only two defensive starters returning.

Rich Rodriguez has taken Arizona to back-to-back bowl games in his first two years on the job. UA trashed Boston College 42-19 in last year's AdvoCare V100 Bowl, easily hooking up its backers as a seven-point 'chalk.'

UA brings back seven starters on offense and six on defense. A trio of transfers and redshirt freshman Anu Solomon are competing for the starting QB job, but USC transfer Jesse Scroggins and Solomon appear to be the the top candidates.

Tra'Mayne Bondurant was expected to lead a secondary that's one of the Pac-12's best. The senior safety, who had 72 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, five tackles for loss and five passes broken up, has been suspended and briefly left the team two weekends ago. He is back on the team now and trying to dig his way out of R-Rod's doghouse.

Arizona has a win total of 6.5 flat (-115 either way) and its odds to win the conference are 33/1. The Wildcats will be favored in their first four games and should go to Eugene on a Thursday night with a 4-0 record.

Arizona St. should have another prolific offense, returning six starters, including QB Taylor Kelly and two dynamic weapons in WR Jaelen Strong and RB D.J. Foster. The Sun Devils averaged 39.7 PPG in '13 thanks to Kelly's 28/12 TD-INT ratio. He completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,625 yards. Kelly makes plays with his legs too, rushing for 608 yards and nine TDs.

Strong was a first-team All Pac-12 selection with 75 catches for 1,122 yards and seven TDs. Foster had 63 receptions for 653 yards and four TDs. He rushed for 501 yards and six scores, averaging 5.4 YPC.

ASU has 18/1 odds to win the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Sun Devils have a win total of 7.5 flat. They get open dates before home games against UCLA and Stanford.

Utah has a win total of 4.5 shaded to the 'over' at a -185 price (+145 for the 'under'). It is a 55/1 longshot to win the conference title.

After going 8-5 in 2011, its first season in the Pac-12, Kyle Whittingham's team has gone 5-7 and missed out on the postseason in back-to-back years. The Utes return six starters on each side of the ball. They have five difficult road games at Michigan, at UCLA, at Oregon St., at Arizona St. and Stanford.

Colorado went 4-8 SU and 7-5 ATS in its first season under Mike MacIntyre. CU bring back eight starters on both offense and defense, but the team's best player, WR Paul Richardson, has move on to the NFL.

Rising sophomore QB Sefo Liufau got seven starts last year, throwing 12 TD passes compared to eight interceptions. If he and a defense that gave up 38.3 PPG last season improve, the Buffs will have a good shot in their three non-conference games (vs. Colorado St. in Denver, at UMass and vs. Hawaii), in addition to league games at Cal, vs. Oregon St. and vs. Utah.

**Fearless Predictions**

2014 Win-Loss Projections
School Record Win Total (5Dimes) Bowl Projection
South Division
UCLA 11-2 9.5 Fiesta Bowl vs. TBD
USC 9-3 8.5 Holiday Bowl vs. Big Ten
Arizona 8-4 6.5 Buffalo Wild Wings vs. Big 12
Arizona State 7-5 7.5 Las Vegas Bowl vs. Mtn. West
Utah 5-7 4.5 -
Colorado 3-9 - -
North Division
Oregon 10-3 10.5 Cotton Bowl vs. Big-12 runner-up
Washington 9-3 9 Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12
Stanford 8-4 8.5 Sun Bowl vs. ACC
Oregon State 8-4 7.5 Fight Hunger vs. Big 10
Washington State 6-6 5.5 At-Large Bowl
California 2-10 - -


**Games to Watch**

1. Oregon at UCLA - UCLA has lost five in a row to Oregon. In Eugene last season, the game was tied at halftime, but the Ducks dominated the last 30 minutes en route to an easy victory.

2. Stanford at UCLA - I always give the home team a slight advantage when a game is played on a short week. This will be a Friday game with Stanford losing a day of preparation to travel. The spot is better for the Cardinal, however, in that it will be coming off an open date, a home game vs. Utah and a cross-town road game at Cal in the three previous week. On the flip side, UCLA will be off a crucial division game against arch-rival USC.

3. Stanford at Oregon - Stanford will be playing its fourth road game in six weeks. Oregon will be in double-revenge mode after losing back-to-back contests to the Cardinal.

4. UCLA at Washington - This will be the seventh game in seven weeks for the Bruins and their third road game in four weeks. UW should cruise past CU in Boulder the previous weekend. A Huskies' win could help USC's chances and keep UW in its own division race.

5. Oregon at Oregon State - You never know what's going to happen in this rivalry game. The Beavers nearly pulled a major upset in a 36-35 loss as 23-point underdogs last season. This could be a big spoiler game for the Beavers in Corvallis.

**Players to Watch**

1-Brett Hundley (UCLA QB) - Does Hundley have the greatness it will take to get UCLA to the Final Four? I think he does.

2-Marcus Mariota (Oregon QB) - If he can duplicate his 2013 numbers, Mariota will be a top-five Heisman candidate and the Ducks will be Final Four candidates in November.

3-Ty Montgomery (Stanford WR) - With a lot of talent and experience gone from the o-line and the defense's front seven, Stanford's offense is going to need a lot of big plays. Montgomery can provide those.

4-Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong (Arizona St. QB & WR) - The Sun Devils are going to need to outscore a lot of foes. Kelly and Strong need to stay healthy and produce TDs galore.

5-Hau'oli Kikaha (Washington DE) -- He was second in the Pac-12 in sacks last year with 13. Kikaha is the leader of a Huskies' defensive line that might be the league's best.

**B.E.'s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Oregon OT Tyler Johnstone is out for the season with a torn ACL. The junior was a first-team Freshman All-America in 2012 and a second-team All Pac-12 selection last year.

-- Since 2009, Oregon St. owns a 17-5 spread record in 22 games as a road underdog. The Beavers have gone 7-0 ATS in such spots the last two years.

-- Oregon is 11-2-1 ATS in its last 14 games as a road favorite.

-- Washington St. has a 10-3 ATS record in its last 13 games as a double-digit underdog on Leach's watch.

-- UCLA starting OT Simon Goines is going to miss at least the team's first two games with an injury.

  
HEADLINES
Edwards: Auburn at Ole Miss
Williams: ACC Report - Week 10
ASA: Big Ten Report - Week 10
David: Total Notes - Week 10
Sportsbook: Saturday's Top Action
Williams: Pac-12 Report - Week 10
Rogers: Bad Company - Week 10
Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 10
SportsBoss: SBPI Rankings - Week 10
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